Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Paddling Santa Cruz Beach Borardwalk

Monday I had the opportunity to do a little paddling in front of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. While the kids were playing around the Boardwalk, my friend and I took advantage of the great sea conditions and paddled between the Wharf and Walton Lighthouse. I have not done a lot of ocean paddling and this was my friends first time on the ocean.

Prior to our trip, I scoured the internet looking for any information I could find about paddling in the area. I didn't have much luck other than finding outfitters that rented kayaks in the area.  We arrived at the park around 11:00 a.m. and parked in the river lot which is adjacent to the San Lorenzo River. I asked the parking attendant about launching my kayak there and he told me to launch from under the railroad trestle. It turns out that there is actually a great spot to put in if you want to paddle the San Lorenzo River. I found out the hard way that it is not  the best spot if you want to paddle on the ocean as it requires a portage through some deep sand. Nevertheless, I paddled from that spot through a shallow pool like area to the beach in front of the boardwalk. We found out later that kayakers are not allowed to launch or land from that section of beach.

If you want to paddle in front of the Boardwalk, you need to launch or land between lifeguard tower 1 and 2 which is near the wharf. I believe the best place to park is next to Cowell's Beach where there is a little roundabout with limited parking but you can unload and then search for parking. Plan on spending a minimum of $9 for 4 hours to park close to the beach. Wharf parking is $21 all day in the summer.

My friend made it through the surf on her first try. I didn't do as well. My timing was off and was tossed off my boat back to the beach and I lost my favorite hat in the process. I didn't waste any time and jumped back on immediately and paddled like crazy to get through the breaking surf. I barely made it but once I was through, the sea was calm and so beautiful! We paddled leisurely through kelp beds towards Walton Lighthouse taking in the scenery as we went along. There were harbor seals barking in the background and the distant sound of surf crashing on the beach. It's an incredible feeling being on the ocean. It makes me feel so tiny and insignificant. You can feel its power, even on a calm day like this, underneath your boat.

We gazed at sailboats in the distance and one that sailed by us only a few yards away. We turned around and headed towards the wharf and I spotted a dolphin not far from us. I brought the sighting to my friends attention and almost instantly two more appeared! How beautiful they were! Swimming and diving maybe 10 yards from us! Seeing the dolphins were the highlight of our day and made my painful surf landing well worth it.

While the lifeguards patched up my sand rash, from my rough landing, one of them informed me that in the summer the swells come from the south and that they will pound the beach for several minutes and then it will be calm for several minutes. It would be a good idea to try landing when it's calm. The key is to be patient and watch the swells. I have quite a bit to learn but I'm looking forward to it!

If you have info on paddling this area or others nearby, feel free to post in the comments section.

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